Rock Run’s Outstanding Biodiversity

 

Rock Run Preserve plays an important role in protecting habitat for an astonishing 28 species of ferns, 14 species of herps, bobcats, rare salamanders, and maybe even some of Ohio’s last colonies of Allegheny wood rats. It also has timber rattlesnakes. Shawnee State Forest has several documented sightings and the state forest is one of Ohio’s two best insurance policies for keeping timber rattlesnakes alive through the 21st century.

Robust Biodiversity. Rock Run’s forest floor botanicals are spectacular.The lower slopes of the preserve are covered with mats of wild ginger, dwarf crested iris, and occasional specimens of the very rare nodding mandarin. In the deepest coves, colonies of robust Trillium erectum, the red wake robin, grow. A small but interesting mint provides a woodland carpet in many areas, Meehania cordata, or Meehan’s mint. It is the only species in its genera in the entire U.S. but it has at least one counterpart in the Asian temperate forest—Meehania urticifolia which grows in the mountain forests in the Honshu region of Japan. In Ohio, Meehania cordata is an unusual find and we were delighted to see its cheerful flowers at Rock Run.

Diverse Natural Ecosystems. The expansion to Rock Run in 2009 contributed two new and very rare ecosystems to the Arc’s preserve system: Black Oak Sand Barrens and Meadow-Beauty-Beaksedge-Hillside-Seeps. This tract lies in what is known as the Sandy Springs region of the Ohio River, where large quantities of river sand accumulated in drifts and sandbars along the base of the bluffs during the Pleistocene Age. Where natural springs emerge from the base of the cliffs, they work their way through the sand, forming quicksand, which inspired the place name of Sandy Springs. These sandy soils boast a fascinating array of botanicals. On the Arc’s new acquisition, there are acres of prickly pear cactus garden, and in mid-summer, hundreds of the rare Virginia Meadow-beauties burst into vibrant bloom around the sandy seeps.

Notable Plant Species.
Asclepias amplexicaulis (Sand Milkweed) – Potentially Threatened
Eleocharis tenuis (Slender Spike-rush) – Threatened
Galactia volubilis (Milk Pea) – Threatened
Opuntiia humifusa (Prickly-pear Cactus) – Potentially Threatened
Rhexia virginica (Virginia Meadow-beauty) – Potentially Threatened
Rhynchospora capetillata (Northern Beaksedge) – First population for Adams County
Scutellaria integrifolia (Helmet Flower) – On the Watch List. First population for Adams County
Carex austrina (southern sedge) – Is not state-listed yet but is a new find in Ohio

Notable Animal Species.
Pseudotriton montanus diastictus (Mud Salamander) – Threatened
Hemidactylium scutatum (Four-toed Salamander) – Species of Special Concern
Eumeces laticeps (Broadheaded Skink) – Species of Special Concern
Terrapene c. carolina  (Eastern box turtle) – Species of Special Concern
Lynx rufus (Bob Cat) – Endangered
Crotalus horridus horridus (Timber Rattlesnake) – Endangered

 

 

Rare Nodding Mandarin at Rock Run, photo by Dennis Kramb
The Rock Run region protects the habitat of the Timber rattlesnake, endangered in Ohio.
Adult 4 toed salamander, photo by Aaron Crank
Red Wake Robin, Trillium Erectum.
Meehania cordata, or Meehan’s mint, is the only species in its genera in the entire U.S.